WKU defeats Rice 68-61

Then-Western Kentucky guard Jared Savage (right) shoots Jan. 4 during WKU’s 68-61 win over Rice at E.A. Diddle Arena.

When Jared Savage was attending high school at Warren Central, he knew one day he wanted basketball to pay the bills.

After starring for the Dragons and later at Western Kentucky, with a stop at Austin Peay in between, he’ll be getting paid to play. Savage signed with Gymnastikos Syllogos Lavrio Basketball Club of Greece’s top-tier Greek Basket League last month and is excited to begin his professional career.

“I finally get paid to play basketball – something I’ve done my whole life. I’m finally a pro now. All the hard work I’ve put in when nobody’s looking has finally paid off now,” Savage said in a phone interview with the Daily News. “I get paid to play now. That was my goal when I started to get into high school. I knew I wanted to get my college paid for, but eventually I wanted to be a pro basketball player and I am now.”

Savage’s collegiate career came to a close quicker than he – or anybody – anticipated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Conference USA Tournament was canceled March 12, hours before the Hilltoppers were scheduled to play their first game. He had started all 30 games in WKU’s 20-10 season to that point, averaging 11.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in 34.6 minutes per game. He shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range and scored his 1,000th career point against Illinois State on Nov. 23.

When college ball was over, he hired Jeffery Whitney of The Sports & Entertainment Group as his agent in what Savage called “a pretty simple process being that Jeff is from Bowling Green and I know a few of his clients already.” Included in the agency’s client list is George Fant – another former Warren Central and WKU standout who recently signed with the NFL’s New York Jets.

“(Whitney) went to work for me right off the bat,” Savage said. “As soon as we hung up, he went to work for me. He got me two to three potential offers and the Greece was a locked-in offer and, with the uncertainty and all going on in the world right now, I went ahead and went with Greece because that was the best offer I had at that point.”

Throughout the summer, Savage has been trying to stay busy and in shape. He started “Chopped Lawn Service by Jared Savage” to make money as he awaited a professional basketball opportunity, and has been working out where he can. Savage says he’s been working with a mix of older guys and guys that he grew up with, including former Warren Central teammates Kobe Caldwell and Chris Porter-Bunton.

“We’ve had people nice enough to let us in certain gyms and weight rooms and we’re in top shape right now and ready to go start our careers somewhere,” Savage said.

Savage’s career will start with G.S. Lavrio B.C. in Greece, in the same league where Rick Pitino recently coached Panathinaikos and former BYU star Jimmer Fredette. Savage says he plans to leave in mid-August and start preseason right away.

“It’s a good league,” Savage said. “It’s a little top heavy. They’ve got two really good teams in the league that everybody tries to knock off every year, so I’m going to try to help my team do that.”

Savage didn’t want to compare the situation playing against the top teams in the league to the ”outside dogs” mentality WKU played with in the 2019-20 season, when the team was fighting through adversity – it lost star center Charles Bassey to a season-ending injury Dec. 7 and learned a few days later it wouldn’t have senior transfer guard Kenny Cooper eligible – and often doubted by those outside the program, but instead said he’d have to get a feel for the teams once he gets to Greece, where he’s hoping to kick start a successful career.

“I just know I’m ready to get over there and make a name for myself in the European market and hopefully one day get back over here and play in the States,” he said.{&end}

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit bgdailynews.com.